US RACING: Jamaica’s Rajiv Maragh takes a break from the saddle, so too Irad Ortiz Jnr

0
484
Jockey Rajiv Maragh greeting racing fans on his last visit to Caymanas Park.

Jockey Rajiv Maragh also took to Twitter to announce that he will no longer be race riding, effective immediately, “for the best chance of staying healthy for myself and family.”

While Maragh did not specifically mention the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, he said the hiatus will last “until things are in better order,” hinting at the highly contagious virus that has left racetracks, including Gulfstream Park, where Maragh bases during the winter.

A winner of 1,902 races aboard 15,522 mounts, the Jamaican-born Maragh, 34, was listed as the jockey in one race at Gulfstream Park on Friday and four on Saturday.

With mounts amassing over US$101 million in purse money over his 15-year career, Maragh has ridden four winners from 133 mounts in 2020. His career highlights include back-to-back victories in the 2013 and 2013 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprints aboard Groupie Doll.

Maragh was the first known jockey from a top circuit to discontinue race riding during the epidemic. Other riders have taken precautions, such as the decisions made by Ortiz Jr., Luis Saez and Tyler Gaffalione to pass on the March 28 Dubai World Cup night due to concerns over travel restrictions and quarantine.

Meanwhile, two-time Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz Jr. announced Thursday that he’s going on hiatus while racing continues behind closed doors, but the spread of COVID-19 remains a threat.

In a post to his Twitter account, Ortiz, named the outstanding rider of 2018 and 2019, said that “this is the safest decision for my family and myself. Hopefully we can all make it safely out of this quarantine sooner than later and get back to what we all love.”

The Puerto Rico native Ortiz Jr., 27, leads the Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet meet with 113 wins from 471 starters. Well in front of second place, he could still win the meet title should it continue as scheduled through the end of the month.

Among his recent mounts were the winners of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (Vino Rosso) and Turf (Bricks and Mortar), both subsequently named champions. Ortiz Jr. has received consecutive Eclipse Awards as the nation’s outstanding rider in 2018 and 2019 after his brother, Jose, won the award in 2017.

Ortiz Jr. was booked to ride Portos in Saturday’s Louisiana Derby (G2).